So, we’ve come through well over a year of quarantine. It has become clear that physical health, including astrong immune system, is very important. This is a good time to revisit, or modify, many traditional foods and ways of preparing them. We can’t help but be distracted or influenced by the whole foods plant-based eating lifestyle that is being promoted by naturalists, athletes, chefs, and even medical doctors. Plant-based diets are everywhere–on television, social media, and the internet. Often we find ourselves inundated by seemingly too much information. Yet, we have not quite the information about adapting traditional flavor profiles that we need to make informed choices. Plus, support may be lacking in our circles.
Recognizing that change doesn’t take place overnight, I’m aiming for a new me in 2022, starting now! (Plus it makes the title of this review rhyme.) Some of us may already be on this journey to optimum health despite our age or previous condition of couch potatoism, or healthy eating may be new to some of us. Either way, it might be fun to explore some of the ideas Tia Mowry wrote about in her book, Whole New You. The book discusses some interesting culinary facts that may motivate you to travel to distant lands, or you may just be excited about foods you can find at your local supermarket!
As we all may know, Tia Mowry is an African American woman who is a TV and movie star. She started off with her twinsister when they were girls, and now Tia has grown up to be a wife and mother. She tells her life story in Whole New You, focusing on her journey from junk food lover to severe illness that included endometriosis and migraines. I would describe the book as a promotion of the idea that “food is medicine”. She relates to the new clean-eating, plant-based diets by marking her recipes as clean (for healing), fun (for taste only?), veg (100 % plant-based, or Vegan), or gluten-free (g-f).
Tia has three big concepts that run throughout the book as a way to evaluate each food: 1. You are whole, and your body works perfectly. Is it whole? 2. Inflammation is a Thing. Does it cause inflammation? 3. You are not alone. Is it good for your gut bacteria?
The types of foods that heal are listed on page 24: Whole Plant Foods; High-Quality Protein; Sea Vegetables; Fermented Foods; and, Sweets. She then drills down into each food type, explaining why they are good for you and what specific foods are good in each group. She even goes into which foods are best purchased as organic. All this information makes this a great reference resource.
In the end, this is a handy reference for people like myself who are not ready to become vegans but do want to eat healthier. Tia gives us so many alternatives within each category, it’s impossible to say, “There’s no healthy food that I can eat.” The greatest lessons of the book for me personally are the identification and rationale for high-quality protein and sea vegetables (pages 33-41) and Fermented foods (pages 42-43).
However, Tia is not a trained chef, so the book does have its shortcomings. For instance, the Quinoa Tabbouleh recipe on page 208, although a great dish for clean eaters and vegans, could use more information and different proportions to satisfy my taste. Compare it to other Tabbouleh recipes (such as Cauliflower Tabbouleh, page 232 in Vegetables Unleashed: A Cookbook by Jose Andres and Matt Goulding (2019)).
Having tried going vegan for a short time, I find that the greatest challenge for me is the issue of taste (and, secondarily, cheese). In addition to modifying traditional dishes to be healthier, it’s important to be able to evaluate cookbook recipes by flavor profile. One way to do this more consistently is to know how to use various herbs, spices, and cooking techniques to bring out flavors that are acceptable to our palates. In some instances where we have not been exposed to foods from certain countries or regions, we need to be oriented to certain flavor or texture profiles to be able to appreciate them. For instance, if I had not initially tried fufu, a traditional West African food similar to mashed potatoes, integrated into an entire African meal, I would probably be turned off from African food altogether, because fufu’s texture is doughy in the sense that okra is slimy—both have unusual mouthfeel.
Questions that are food for thought:
- “Food is Medicine”. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
- What type of diet do you eat? Do you feel that it is healthy for you?
- Have you made modifications to recipes for traditional dishes that your family cooks? Have family members embraced the changes?
- The plant-based diet–have you tried it? With what results?
- If you are an experienced cook, what advice would you give to younger people learning to cook for their families?
- What do you think of Tia Mowry’s Whole New You?
- Have you tried making any of Tia’s recipes? How did they turn out?
Here is a list of delicious Resources I used for this blog post, most of which are available at the Richmond Public Library:
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by The Editors at America’s Test Kitchen (2015)
Vegetables Unleashed: A Cookbook by Jose Andres and Matt Goulding (2019)
The Obesity Code Cookbook: Recipes to Help You Manage Your Insulin, Lose Weight, and Improve Your Health by Dr. Jason Fung (2019)
The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity by Donna Gates with Linda Schatz (2011)
Fabulous, Fast or Easy Jenkins-Jones Family Recipes by Meldon D. Jenkins-Jones (2010)
The Mediterranean Method by Steven Maslely, MD (2019)
Whole New You by Tia Mowry (2017)
Umami Bomb by Raquel Pelzel (2019)